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Idaho State University

Bound Together Along The Portneuf

Do investments in conservation benefit rural and urban communities?

Idaho State University Participants

Benjamin Crosby, Donna Lybecker, Trina Running

Partners and Affilation

Hannah Sanger - City of Pocatello; Nate Matlack – National Resource Conservation Service; Soil and Water Conservation District Board

Research Problem

The dominant source of fine sediment that impairs water quality in the Portneuf River comes from Marsh Creek, a highly impacted, agriculture-dominated tributary. In this common conundrum, a rural population is called upon to improve their land management practices in response to the demands of an external entity. We seek to answer (1) whether past conservation efforts have been effective at improving water quality and (2) how rural land owners perceive changes in their long-held agricultural practices to serve downstream users?

Research Outcomes

Between 6/2016-5/2018, we propose to explore the interaction between rural and urban communities and their support and tolerance of each other through the lens of conservation and monitoring investments. To accomplish this, we have partnered with local landowners, the City of Pocatello, the National Resource Conservation Service and the Portneuf Soil and Water Conservation District Board. With these partners, we are collecting historic and contemporary data regarding conservation investments and evaluating their effectiveness. We approach this work guided by three sets of questions:

  • Are there measurable ecological benefits following investment in conservation and monitoring activities? Do the perceived values of these benefits vary between rural and urban communities?
  • Are rural conservation objectives defined internally or are they imposed by external actors? Does this distinction impact the perceived value of the activities?
  • What is the spatial extent and distribution of conservation and monitoring investments? How have these varied over time? Do concentrated investments yield greater ecological or social benefit?